Features to Look for When Buying Automotive Diagnostic Tools

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Features to Look for When Buying Automotive Diagnostic Tools

There is often nothing more frustrating than a car not working properly other than not being able to figure out what is going on with it. This is especially the case with newer model cars that come equipped with computers. It does not necessarily take much to aggravate a computer component and have features stop working. Sometimes, even just a minor change like attempting to change a cigarette lighter plug can cause a complete automotive system to shut down.

Because so many automotive features are controlled by a computer, it is not always easy to find out which component is causing the problem. That is where automotive diagnostic tools like a code reader and digital analyser come in handy. These tools can be located at automotive stores, hardware stores, and online on eBay. Knowing what tools are used for automotive diagnostics as well what functions these tools serve can assist in isolating the automotive problem so a car can get back on the road.

Overview of Automotive Diagnostic Tools

Although there is a wide variety of diagnostic tools available for individual automobile system diagnostic use, code readers and digital analysers are the most common and also widely used amongst many individuals. For those people who are not already familiar with which tools are used in automotive diagnostics, it is helpful to know the various tools that are available. People who specialise in auto mechanics use these tools on a daily basis.

When people bring in an automobile for repair, one of the first things that normally take place is having a diagnostic test run on the vehicle. Sometimes, having these tests run on a vehicle can be pretty expensive, and it still does not get the problem resolved. But for the ordinary individual who possesses some automotive knowledge already, automotive diagnostic tools are a valuable resource in verifying where the vehicle's problem areas lie.

Uses of Diagnostic Tools

Although many automotive diagnostic tools do not rectify the problems themselves, they at least can possibly eliminate the fee of taking the car to a mechanic and having the tests run by them. Furthermore, if an individual is also able to fix the problem themselves after locating it with the tools, the process of getting the vehicle working properly and having no labour costs other than their own can be a very rewarding experience.

Diagnostic Tool Features

Choosing the right tool for a diagnostic evaluation is very important, especially when time is of the essence in getting a vehicle back on the road. It is not a good idea to buy any diagnostic tool until it is understood how the tool is used and what features it provides. Buying a cheap diagnostic tool may be all that is needed; however, taking the time to know what each tool is used for and choosing a new car diagnostic tool when necessary can help a person alleviate much frustration later when it is realised the proper equipment is lacking.

Code Readers

Because this type of automotive diagnostic tool does not come with diagnostic software in the package, it is normally used for home and personal use. It is also a cheaper type of diagnostic tool, which makes it more appealing to individuals who do not use the tool on a routine basis. Because of the limited features that this tool possesses, it is not an ideal one for mechanics or other professionals who are in the business of performing mechanical work to use.


The purpose of this type of tool is to find and pull codes that are causing the mechanical problems; however, they only function to pull the codes when an automobile's check engine light is activated. The OBD I models of code readers are used for diagnosing automobiles within the years 1983-1995, while 1996 to present are OBD II code readers.

One drawback to some of the OBD I code reader models is that they can only be used for domestic cars. Often, this tool is also able to provide a snapshot of sensor readings that do not require the check engine light to be on. It is important to make sure before investing in this type of diagnostic tool that it is compatible for use with the car that it is being used to diagnose.

Diagnostic Analyser

This diagnostic scanning tool does come with software, and the price usually does reflect that difference. It is created for professional use, and the features that a specific analyser comes equipped with vary by model and manufacturer. This type of advanced tool has many benefits to the user, such as being able activate various automobile components and test them for problems. It also has the ability to cover diagnostics on a broader scale of vehicle type that often includes codes for the transmission, body, ABS, and SRS.

The results of the diagnostic scan are often able to be saved to a computer in order to build a customer maintenance and vehicle history. A vast majority of these scanners are able to be updated; however, this may be an advanced option that requires an additional expense in order to take advantage of its properties. Some of the diagnostic analysers can be pretty expensive depending on model, and some of the lower priced units may have limited features. Many diagnostic analysers are also able to reset components that have malfunctioned as well.

Diagnostic Tool Chart

The section below gives information on two diagnostic tools. Becoming familiarised with these tools can aid an individual in picking out the right tools for the job. Each item is described in more detail further below in a later section.

Diagnostic Tool

Notable Characteristics

Code Readers

Comes without diagnostic software, also known as "code retrievers"; fairly inexpensive

Diagnostic analyser

Scanner with diagnostic software included; professional scale models available which are great for mechanics; costs a lot more

Having a little background information on the various types of automotive diagnostic tools helps to point a person in the right direction when they are ready to purchase one. As with any type of automotive tool, the notable characteristics of the features contained within the tool usually varies by price and manufacturer of the diagnostic equipment.

Other Diagnostic Tools

There are so many systems in an automobile that function independent of each other. Sometimes, a person may already be aware of where the mechanical problem within an automobile lies. In cases like these, there are other diagnostic tools that are taken advantage of to diagnose those types of mechanical problems. The list below has information on some other common diagnostic tools that are able to assist an individual who has already located a potential problem area.

Diagnostic Tool

Notable Characteristics

Compression Tester

Used in diagnosing problems and fixing components that rely on pressure for proper performance

Engine Control Diagnostics

Used to locate and often resolve problems with engine control like idle speeds, hunts down intermittent auto problems

Battery and Charging System

Used to test, charge, service, and boost batteries and other systems that need recharging

Cooling System

Uses antifreeze testers and temperature gauges to diagnose cooling system problems

Purchasing diagnostic equipment for automobile malfunctions helps to rule out the source of many other potential causes. Knowing how common diagnostic tools work can save an individual a lot of time and money when whether they use the diagnostic tools as a hobby or it is for business purposes, provided the right tool is selected.

Buying Automotive Diagnostic Tools on eBay

Being able to purchase diagnostic tools is an advantage that many people previously did not have available to them. It was uncommon for individuals to possess their own equipment unless it was part of business. Since eBay has a wide variety of diagnostic tools to choose from, learning how to find the right tool is advantageous.

Start by typing in the item you are looking for on the eBay homepage. For example, if you want a tool that just gives you a code, type in "car diagnostic code reader" and click on the search icon. A list of relevant items is displayed for you to look through. Searches can be performed from any eBay web page for added convenience. You may also want to take advantage of the advanced search option features that are available. This feature allows you to select categorical filters to add to your search that include price, location, seller, and many other useful filters.


Finding out why a system within an automobile is not working properly does not have to be frustrating or time consuming when the right equipment is available to assist in finding the problem. Diagnostic tools, such as code readers and diagnostic analysers, are readily available to help make diagnosing mechanical issues easy. Code readers are useful in locating malfunctioning automobile equipment; however, they are unable to test or resolve the problem. Diagnostic analysers are more advanced and are widely used by mechanics to not only diagnose and test vehicle components but also to resolve the issues as well.

Moreover, there are other diagnostic tools for engine, cooling, battery, and control systems that are also useful in solving mechanical problems. Understanding how these diagnostic tools are used and how they differ helps to give the automobile owner peace of mind while allowing them to save money on unnecessary auto repairs, now and in the future.

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